Alexander Goldfield “Zeke”
July 10th 1916 – March 5th, 2014
I didn’t really know him that well.
Although, you might say that of anyone, his children and grandchildren knew him the least.
My memories of him are pieced and parted; a visit here, a phone call there; a check in the mail.
I won’t sit here and say that I’m really broken up about his passing. I’m actually more broken up that I’m not so broken up.
I feel like I missed out. And I feel like he did too; not just on me but on all of his children and grand children.
What slices and tears at me the most is not that he didn’t show up when I needed him, but that he didn’t show up for my father. That he forever held a grudge against him for not pursuing the dream of music. All he could see was my father, the cellist. Because that’s what he was, and that’s what he wanted to be.
What he saw in me was Eleanor, the musician. Anything else was like the metal post of a sign – a part of the whole, but not what you pay attention to.
My father is an incredibly successful historian and writer. And more importantly, he loves his work. At gatherings, my grandfather would gloss over these tremendous accomplishments with a senile ease, although his mind was sharp as a tack. He wouldn’t look down upon them, he just wouldn’t look at all.
He taught his children the melody of the life he wanted; a beautiful concerto, with a single cello.
As children are wont to do, they chose their own paths in the end, letting that melody slip into their own compositions.
But whenever I saw him, he would take up the melody again, right where he left off, never singing or humming the songs it grew into.
I can’t help but feel bad for him that he missed the rest of those compositions.
And I feel bad that I missed out on what composed his pointed melody.
In reality, what I know is just as pieced and parted as the memories I have of him.
There are conflicting stories, even from him. I know that he was in the Navy; fought bravely both in the second World War and Korea.
His medals always sat proudly above the couch in his Florida apartment.
I know that he was raised by his siblings – his older brother Harry in particular, fleeing the Russian Revolution.
I know he worked for a bank in New York, and that he never forgave himself for not staying in the Navy.
Cello and music were his soul mates. My father, David, was a prodigy – starting his musical career at Juilliard at the age of 10. Joni, a few years younger than David, was similarly gifted at piano.
My father put the cello down, and doesn’t regret it.
Of the two children and four grandchildren, I’m the only one still pursuing music. And yet still, my melody, is not his.
My melody is a complex orchestration of all that I’ve learned and experienced in life.
There is no pointed or simple composition. It’s a sea of instrumentation, crescendos and swells, piano, legato, time signature changes and probably a gong hit or two.
It’s a night at the opera that I love to sing, with family and friends and anyone who will listen – and I wish my grandfather could have heard it.
But for all the dissonant chords that strum when I think of him, his melody is in there too. Somewhere in this beautiful complexity is a single cello, just as oblivious to the cacophony around him as the man was in life.
So, for tonight, I’ll let the cello play solo.
Interestingly enough, it always has been my favorite instrument.